Friday, November 27, 2009

The Olympics In Fredericton

My wife is an opera singer. No matter how you define what she and her colleagues do, it's absolutely critical that you mention that they sing unaided; by that, I mean they do not use abbreviated Michaels. Yes, they've trained their voices to project without the use of mikes, so when the call came in for Wendy to sing at the Olympic torch ceremony in Fredericton, with a mike, she cautiously agreed.

Asking an opera singer to perform with a mike is like passing Pablo a box of crayons and saying 'create a masterpiece'. Picasso did dabble in crayons but he produced nothing more impressive than what my nieces are capable of drawing on any given day. For $42 000, you can have a piece of paper with Picasso's original signature on it. To me that seems like a waste of money. I'd much rather use the $42 000 to book a hotel room in Whistler for the weekend during the Olympics. Parking would be extra.

I have a funny relationship with the Olympics. I love the idea of physical excellence, though the pressure of performing in front of a billion people must be excruciating. I tip my Olympic toque to those who can rise to the challenge. I'd be the bunny in the headlights still stuck in the blocks long after the starting pistol had fired. I believe that it's called performance anxiety.

I have a problem with some of the Olympic sports, particularly those that are not available to the public at large. Alpine ski racing, for example, it something that the average person can attempt to do. It's quite natural to ski down a hill. Things start to get a little more complicated when sports like the biathlon are introduced. The biathlon combines cross country skiing and shooting. I tried my own version of it once, snowboarding down Poley Mountain while shooting at things. It didn't go over well, and I must say, the food in jail isn't as bad as you might think.

Some Olympic sports make perfect sense, take the luge for example. Every northern hemisphere kid has taken a toboggan down a hill. It's incredibly natural. Doing it at one hundred kilometres per hour in sexy, lump hugging outfits is a bit of a stretch, but only just a bit. In college many students stole cafeteria trays and slid down campus hills. This sport was known as 'Beaver boarding', because when I was in college it was Beaver Foods that had the contract to boil potatoes for the students.

Another Olympic winter sport, similar to luge, is called 'skeleton'. It's a relatively new sport which I believe was included to appeal to the segment of our population that actually enjoys watching the Jackass movies. Don't tell anyone, but I watched two of them and was mildly entertained.

The winter Olympics, if you look at the list of events, isn't all that outrageous. Some people whine about events like figure skating, saying that ice dancing should not be an Olympic sport because is based on artistic interpretation, rather than sheer athleticism. To those people I say strap on a pair of skates and try and lift your wife above your head. You'll be happy to watch Olympic figure skating from your hospital bed. You'll be thankful to be alive.

So, Ian, have you ever lifted Wendy above your head while wearing skates?

No, but only because I don't own skates. If someone would drop off a pair (size 12), then I'd be happy to give it a try. I'm not sure how Wendy feels about this.

I do know how Wendy felt about singing the commissioned Olympic torch song at the ceremony this past Wednesday evening...she was delighted. It could have been quite a challenge to sing with a mike and a choir outdoors, but she rose to the occasion. And what an occasion it was! It was like a rock concert: giant stage, explosive lighting, and the coveted Jumbotron. It was very professionally organized, and there was a trained sound crew there to keep 'the diva' happy. For the record, Wendy was once given the title 'anti diva' during a CBC interview from New York City. I've always liked that term. I'd like to be anti something.

You know, I am anti one summer Olympic sport. It's called the race walk and I think it's preposterous. If there's one sport that's got to go, it's the race walk. It's just so unnatural. Even when I have to pee really badly, I don't walk like that. Let's all band together, and get it banned. Perhaps half-pipe skateboarding could be allowed in it's place. Look what half-pipe snowboarding has done for the winter's brought it into the twenty-first century.

It's not long until the winter Olympics happen in Vancouver. The torch is on the move across the country. Perhaps it will even see some snow along the way. The reception the torch received in Fredericton was warm enough to melt snow, though we had none. If you'd like to see what the event looked like through my video camera, then I've got two links for you. The first is of the arrival of the flame, the second is a clip of Wendy and choir singing. I'm a better photographer than cinematographer...that will become obvious. My short films won't be medal winners, but the people of Fredericton certainly gave a gold medal welcome to the Olympic torch.

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